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Eagle County candidates differ on worker housing

BASALT ” Debbie Buckley isn’t crazy about the direction Eagle County government is moving, so she’s trying to infiltrate and change it.

Jon Stavney supports the county commissioners’ efforts to control growth and provide affordable housing, so he wants to join the board and stay the course.

The two candidates with very different views are squaring off in the Eagle County commissioner district two race. They are vying for the seat that Arn Menconi must vacate after eight years because of term limits.

Buckley, 51, is a Republican and an anti-tax crusader. That comes across loud and clear in little yellow signs with two words ” “lower taxes” ” that are tacked onto her larger campaign yard signs scattered around Eagle County.

She has unleashed scalding critiques of the current commissioners for failing to lower the property tax rate when valuations soared last year. Tax bills soared along with the increased values, giving Eagle County government a $7 million windfall.

In the past when property valuations increased dramatically, the county commissioners enacted a temporary adjustment of the mill levy, easing the tax bills of county residents. Buckley said the commissioners should have done that last year and kept a more modest increase in property-tax revenues for the county. Their failure to adjust the mill levy shattered the trust that residents have in county government, she claimed. Her campaign theme is “restoring trust, building community.”

Buckley also is highly critical of new county regulations that require 35 percent of new residential units to be affordable housing.

“I think that’s going to kill the economy,” said Buckley, a small business owner who has been in the health care field for much of her career.

She said the private sector is willing and capable of providing affordable housing ” as long as the county government eliminates obstacles.

Stavney, 40, a Democrat and homebuilder, scoffed at the idea that the free market will address the affordable housing shortage. “I build second homes in the Vail area. I know what the free market does,” he said.

Providing affordable housing would be his top goal as a county commissioner, he said. Aspen and Pitkin County provide a model for how to do that. The approach in the Eagle Valley for so long has been “drive (downvalley) until you qualify” for free-market housing, Stavney said. “That doesn’t work anymore.”

He supports the mitigation requirements that the county has placed on developers. He also wants the county to continue its direction of acquiring land then working with developers on projects that provide a significant amount of affordable housing. That approach, he said, is a wise investment that will ensure that Eagle County businesses maintain a work force. It also will provide housing for essential community workers, like teachers, police officers and firefighters.

“It’s the right thing for the people serving these communities,” Stavney said.

Both candidates acknowledged that Eagle County residents in the El Jebel and Basalt areas generally are tougher on growth than residents of the Eagle Valley. Stavney said he wholeheartedly supports the current commissioners’ agreement to work with the Basalt government on land-use issues of common interest. The two governments signed what they called a historic deal to honor each other’s land-use master plans. That makes it difficult for Eagle County to approve high-density projects on the fringe of Basalt’s urban growth boundary, or the area deemed appropriate for high-density growth.

Stavney claimed many Republicans seem to follow a doctrine in which private property rights entitle them to upzoning their land to allow greater density. It was a clear reference to his foe, though he didn’t name her.

Stavney said his record in public office shows that growth control and affordable housing aren’t just convenient campaign themes for him. He served 10 years on the Town Council of Eagle, including four years as mayor. He left that board in April.

Buckley also is a political veteran. She served on the Avon Town Council for eight years.

Both candidates vowed they won’t be strangers in the Roaring Fork Valley section of Eagle County if elected. That’s a popular theme among county commissioner candidates who live in the Eagle Valley. More often than not, they disappear once the election is over.

Stavney and Buckley both said they will make frequent visits to coffeehouses in Basalt as commissioners and make themselves available to constituents.

Buckley’s campaign website is http://electdebbiebuckley.com.

Stavney’s campaign website is http://www.jonstavney.com.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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